Regular season nears finish line in Brainerd

The Countdown to the Championship is just two races away, which means the pressure is turning up for racers looking to secure a spot in the playoffs. The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will provide a spot for drivers to do just that.
09 Aug 2017
Posted by staff
Brainerd Hero

Tensions will rise as the drivers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series head to Brainerd International Raceway for the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 17-21. It is the 17th of 24 races during the 2017 season and, more importantly, is the penultimate race of the regular season. With spots in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship still up for grabs, drivers in the world’s fastest motorsport will leave it all on the line at the fan-favorite track.

Brainerd International Raceway has been home to incredible performances over the past 30-plus years and fans can expect more of the same in 2017 thanks to the thrilling 10,000-horsepower nitro-burning machines.

Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 20.
brittany.JPGForce captured her first Top Fuel victory at Brainerd a year ago in her Monster Energy dragster, one of three wins she enjoyed during her breakout 2016 season. Force has one victory this season and will look for a repeat performance at Brainerd to try to capture red-hot points leader Steve Torrence, who just picked up his fourth win of the year in Norwalk. He’s aiming for his first career world championship, competing against top competition like back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, Bristol winner Clay Millican, three-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, two-time Bristol winner Doug Kalitta, rookie Troy Coughlin and Terry McMillen.

Worsham’s first Funny Car victory wrapped up a thrilling weekend at the facility. Worsham went 3.90 in the final round, beating Matt Hagan, who set a then-world record with a pass of 3.822 earlier in the weekend. Worsham has struggled in 2017 and sits outside the top 10, meaning a victory in Brainerd would do wonders for his Countdown goals. Standing in his way is a host of stars in the loaded Funny Car class, including points leader and reigning world champ Ron Capps, who has five wins this year, 11-time Brainerd winner John Force, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Courtney Force, 2015 winner Robert Hight, J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson and Cruz Pedregon.

Pro Stock’s Drew Skillman was yet another first-time Brainerd winner, beating Minnesota native Jason Line in the final. Line had the last laugh, winning the world championship, but Skillman has been on fire in 2017, winning three of the last four events. In all, nine different drivers have won in Pro Stock this season, led by three-time winner and points leader Bo Butner. Both rookie Tanner Gray and Skillman have three wins to their name, while veteran Greg Anderson has bagged a pair of Wallys. Others aiming for the Brainerd win include four-time event champ Jeg Coughlin, two-time winner Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha and Allen Johnson. 

Hines won for the third time in Brainerd in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but the five-time world champion has yet to crack the win column in 2017. He’ll look to do so in Brainerd, matching up against two-time event winner and teammate Eddie Krawiec. LE Tonglet, a 2011 winner at the track, is the current points leader on the strength of five wins this season, while the hotly-contested class includes standouts like reigning world champ Jerry Savoie, Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Angelle Sampey, Scotty Pollacheck, Joey Gladstone and Steve Johnson.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 19, at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 218-824-RACE (7223) or 866-444-4455. Tickets also are available online at Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.